Delhi was explosion on my food senses.
The decadent world of Mughlai cuisine left me spellbound and numb.
It was a while though before I had my first brush with the cuisine from Punjab.
Have you been to the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib ? A friend asked me one lazy Sunday morning.
No, I admitted, I would love to though.
I am headed there, wanna join me ?
Well, it was an ethereal experience. (And since then I have been drawn again and again to the blessed precincts of a Gurudwara)
But the standout, one that’s still firmly etched in my memory, had to be the langar lunch, more people than I could ever count, seated on the floor, side by side, in disciplined rows, agnostic of cast, creed and colour, savouring the humble yet delectable lunch.
The lunch, langarwali dal (I came to know of the name much later) and a lip-smacking cabbage sabzi with rotis that were still hot (How did they ever coordinate logistics at this colossal scale, I kept musing through the lunch), finished with a halwa that tasted divine, numbed my senses, this was indeed food heaven.
If Mughlai food was decadent and ostentatious, this was humble, redolent of Mother Earth and her gorgeous produce.
The spartan simplicity and unabashed honesty of the lunch touched my heart.
I continued exploring the cuisine from the blessed land of the five rivers.
Before long, Sunday mornings were religiously reserved for Rajma Chawal and if Daljeet Aunty (my roommate Ns adorable mother) didn’t pack her stunning Kadhi Pakoras in a tiffin box when N returned on Monday mornings post the weekend at home, I would, no qualms in admitting, sulk in silence.
And when winter arrived with her magnanimous harvest of grains and bountiful mustard greens, my love for this rustic earthy cuisine was elevated to an unprecedented high.
Fast forward a couple of years.
We are in Kolkata when S proposes a Dimer Torka and Roti dinner.
I am perplexed.
Dimer Torka, what’s that ?
It’s the most delicious Punjabi dish you could possibly savour in Kolkata. S brags.
Punjabi dish ? I asked, cynicism in my voice. I considered myself well-versed, did I not, on Punjabi cuisine.
S reads my doubt and is quick to retort, Well, one that’s adapted to the Bengali palate.
The takeaway meal of Dimer Torka and piping hot rotis from a nondescript hole-in-the-wall joint was pure love.
And that’s when my affair with Dimer Torka began.
A staple at home since then, at least once a fortnight.
So imagine my frustration when the black urad dal supplies run out and every effort to replenish stocks go in vain for weeks on end.
And then that unbridled joy when the local grocery store calls me to inform that he’s finally received supplies !!!
No points for guessing what graced the table that evening for dinner.
Dimer Torka. A symphony of green moong and black urad dals. Cooked in an onion-tomato gravy. Perfumed with an overload of kasoori methi. And finished with a generous helping of scrambled eggs.
Dimer Torka (Egg Tadka, Dhaba Style)
- 3/4 cup whole green moong
- 3/4 cup whole black urad dal with skin
- 4 big onions grated
- 2 tomatoes finely chopped
- 1 tsp garlic finely chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger freshly grated
- 3-4 green chilies finely chopped
- 4 eggs whipped
- 2 tbsp kasoori methi
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp red chilli powder
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/3 cup cooking oil
- salt to taste
- Soak both the green and black moong overnight.
- Drain from water, add to a pressure cooker. Add 4 cups of water, just a little salt and pressure cook, one whistle I would reckon. Allow the steam to release on its own.
- Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan. Season the whipped eggs with salt, pour onto the pan and scramble the eggs. Keep aside.
- In a deep bottomed pan, heat the remaining oil. Throw in the cumin seeds and bay leaves , allow the spices to splutter.
- Add the grated onions, sprinkle a little salt and cook patiently over a medium flame till the onions are cooked and the raw smell of onions is no longer there.
- Add the garlic, ginger and tomatoes, continue to cook till the tomatoes are cooked.
- Take the turmeric powder, red chili powder and cumin powder in a small bowl. Add a little water to form a smooth paste. Add the paste and to pan, sauté till oil starts to release from the masala.
- Carefully add the boiled lentils to the pan, give it a good stir.
- Pour 2 cups of warm water, lightly mash the lentils with the back of your ladle, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes till the torka is of a medium to thick consistency.
- Add the scrambled eggs, give it a good mix.
- Dry roast the kasoori methi lightly on a hot tawa. While hot but comfortable enough to handle, crush the kasoori methi with your palms, sprinkle over the torka.
- Adjust seasonings. Finish with a generous dash of lemon juice. Serve hot with phulkas.